Micro-grant award sparks vibrant clean-up effort on GHS property

Their community mainstay may be shuttered, but locals still want to ensure it doesn’t become an eyesore.

So, more than 30 members of the “Legends of Germantown” Facebook group helped spruce up the land surrounding what was once Germantown High School (GHS) on Sunday afternoon.

What began with sweeping and weeding walkways coalesced into a more concerted raking- and trash-collecting effort to prepare the larger expanses of grass for mowing.

Participants also eagerly looked forward to the cook-out and DJ set awaiting them at the end of the day.

On the scene

In the early afternoon hours, Charles Morris (GHS Class of ’72) found himself bragging on the fact that SEPTA’s Route 23 trolley is still the longest in the world. Longer than San Francisco’s, he said it starts in Chestnut Hill and leads all the way to the stadiums.

His was indicative of the pride that those who grew up in Germantown feel for their neighborhood. Those assembled for the clean-up overwhelmingly maintained that the GHS campus is a vital symbol.

Troy Foster (Class of ’83) explained why he applied for the $1,000 grant awarded by Germantown United CDC for the effort.

“We care about our building as alumni and Germantowners,” Foster said. “Not just the school, but also [Germanown Town] Hall. We’re here to maintain our neighborhood. As long as these buildings stand empty, this will be an ongoing process.”

Looking back

GHS first opened its doors in 1914 and closed shortly after its final class graduated in June 2013.

For many at GHS on Sunday, it was particularly galling that the School District chose to shutter the historic school so close to its centennial year. This did not temper the sense of optimism of those who feel that its doors might open yet again.

“Germantown was the center of everything before there was Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy. It had everything,” said Neil Blunt, Class of ’70. “But, Germantown is on the upswing again. It’s prime territory.”

The “Legends of Germantown” group hopes that the GHS campus still represents an attractive property for developers. Members pointed out amenities like proximity to major-transportation routes and faults like abandoned nearby businesses that once thrived.

To most, this clean-up effort was symbolically promising.

“When something like this happens, I think it’s important to show up,” said Jill Saull, a photographer and member of multiple neighborhood associations. “We’re here and we want to be at the table. We want people to know what the neighborhood needs and what the neighborhood wants.”

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